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Secrecy of Radio Communications

Old 13th Jan 2020, 22:24
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Secrecy of Radio Communications

It comes up again from study points in presentations.
What is secret about radio comms, if it's plastered all over Youtube.
What is supposed to be secret.....what do we have to keep secret from the public?
Am I supposed to keep my ERSA, DAPS and AIP in a locked cabinet at all times.
Why is secrecy even mentioned when there's 1 million+ Youtube videos that contain aviation radio calls, even ones made by the FAA, CASA, EASA etc.
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Old 13th Jan 2020, 22:38
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Can't say.

It's a secret...

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Old 13th Jan 2020, 22:52
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Aren’t they downloadable on the web?
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Old 14th Jan 2020, 00:25
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Who’s telling you that radio communications are supposed to be “secret” and on what basis is the person making that assertion?
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Old 14th Jan 2020, 00:54
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The old comms regulations when I sat my marine licence were that while you couldn’t be prevented from overhearing, you weren’t allowed to make use of the information.
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Old 14th Jan 2020, 01:09
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Same secrecy provisions apply to Amateur Radio License holders who generally have access to far larger sections of the radio spectrum. Probably a bit out of date now with digital and coded transmissions but still in the rules.
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Old 14th Jan 2020, 02:15
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The secrecy rule is there so that it's illegal for everyone to keep talking about that one bloody time I accidentally did the passenger briefing over the radio!! :P
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Old 14th Jan 2020, 03:00
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The Wireless Telegraphy Regulations originating in 1905(!) and in force up till 1980 had provisions re secrecy, and is no doubt the source of "rules" originally published in the various radiocommunications licensing schemes (amateur radio service, marine etc.). Copy below to bring back fond memories to some

Those Regulations were subsequently incorporated into a variety of acts including the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, Privacy Act etc. and in these the requirements for privacy tend to be specific e.g. the privacy of phone calls, electronic messaging etc. and personal information.

In short, if something is transmitted by radio of a general nature and not being matters covered by the telecommunications or privacy acts I don't believe any secrecy applies, hence the streaming of airband, marine, emergency services communications etc. despite what the originators might like. As a result, police and some other services have moved to using encryption, taking their own steps to preserve the secrecy and privacy of their communications.

However I stand to be corrected, if someone can point to a specific current act or regulation

WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY REGULATIONS - SECT. 36.
Provisions as to secrecy

36. (1) Any person operating an authorized station or having access to wireless messages transmitted or received by an authorized station shall make, in accordance with a form approved by the Minister, a declaration that he will preserve the secrecy of all commercial, naval, military or air force wireless messages transmitted or received by that station.

(2) The licensee of an authorized station shall take such steps as are necessary to ensure the secrecy of wireless communications transmitted or received by the station.

(3) A person shall not, without lawful authority, divulge, or make any use whatsoever of, any portion of the text of any message transmitted or received by any station whether situated in Australia or elsewhere, or disclose in any manner whatsoever the existence of any such message.

Last edited by CaptainMidnight; 16th Jan 2020 at 03:39.
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Old 14th Jan 2020, 05:34
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How quaint!

I note that the ‘unit of competency’ called ‘maintain aircraft radio communications’ for aviation-related diplomas published on the training.gov.au website lists as ‘assessment requirements’ knowledge of ‘responsibilities of an aeronautical radio operator, including secrecy of communications and unauthorised transmissions.’

Methinks the secrecy bit is based on folklore rather than existing law, at least in relation to the content of civil aircraft-related radiocomms. I could be wrong. But it would be a very frequently breached law!
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Old 14th Jan 2020, 07:01
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No secrecies in aviation RT, just listen to Live ATC, quite a few Australian airports on it.
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Old 14th Jan 2020, 10:42
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Lotsa airport 'operators' listening in to get a callsign, or auto tape / chip - so that they can post out the 'landing fee' invoice...….So, use somebody else's c/s.....

"FKB, You're where? Doing What?"
So this 'wacker' again says wot he says......U know.....'This is FKB...doing whatever'...…..
That bit was a troo story which occurred at Kunners not long after the FSU was shut down and remoted back to Perth FSC.

Then, miracle of miracles......up popped the REAL 'FKB' (Fk-28 RPT) on descent for a landing, with the remark, I'm gunna see U'..!!!

Dreadfully quiet after that...…….
Cheeerrrsss….
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Old 14th Jan 2020, 11:25
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From ITU Radio Regulations Vol. 1 from 2016
Administrative Provisions:
17.1 In the application of the appropriate provisions of the Constitution and the Convention, administrations bind themselves to take the necessary measures to prohibit and prevent:
17.2 a) the unauthorized interception of radiocommunications not intended for the general use of the public;
17.3 b) the divulgence of the contents, simple disclosure of the existence, publication or any use whatever, without authorization of information of any nature whatever obtained by the interception of the radiocommunications mentioned in No. 17.2

18.4 § 2 The holder of a licence is required to preserve the secrecy of telecommunications, as provided in the relevant provisions of the Constitution and the Convention. Moreover, the licence shall mention, specifically or by reference, that if the station includes a receiver, the interception of radiocommunication correspondence, other than that which the station is authorized to receive, is forbidden, and that in cases where such correspondence is involuntarily received, it shall not be reproduced, nor communicated to third parties, nor used for any purpose, and even its existence shall not be disclosed

Aeronautical Services:
36.3 § 3 Except as otherwise provided for in these Regulations, the person responsible, as well as all the persons who may have knowledge of any information whatever obtained by means of the radiocommunication service, are placed under the obligation of observing and ensuring the secrecy of correspondence.

37.11 § 4 Each administration shall take the necessary steps to place operators under the obligation to preserve the secrecy of correspondence as provided for in No. 18.4.
I guess some countries fall short of enforcing what they signed up for. My home country doesn't. You won't find any ATC streams from this little part of the world.

Last edited by BDAttitude; 14th Jan 2020 at 11:44.
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Old 15th Jan 2020, 09:42
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Much of this goes back to the days of ships radio officers who were placed on ships to provide an element of safety. Much of the time they had little to do and to pay for them they would pass messages on behalf of the public (passengers) for which a charge was made. It was very like the land based telegram service. It was not unreasonable to expect a degree of confidentiality regarding such messages and so the secrecy of communication came into place. None of these messages involved the operation of the ship, but that was also covered by the legislation.
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Old 15th Jan 2020, 10:25
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The questions remain: (1) Why does ‘secrecy’ of civil aviation radiocomms continue to be a ‘unit of competency’ in some civil aviation-related qualification, and (2) What is the current source of that obligation?


Methinks (still) that this ‘competency’ has been folklore-based for some time.
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Old 15th Jan 2020, 23:42
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I have never heard of this regulation in over 30 years of flying. Why? Because no one cares.
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Old 16th Jan 2020, 00:10
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The operative word is “correspondence”. We are not talking about announcements. If you are flying and a passenger has a medical episode and you relay details of their name and condition to a doctor on the ground then that is correspondence - a communication that is normally private. If joe blow intercepts it and uses the information for example blabbing to a newspaper, then that is illegal.
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Old 16th Jan 2020, 01:13
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Under what law, precisely?
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Old 16th Jan 2020, 01:17
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Ixixly, lololol.......you only did it once, you're bloody good!
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Old 16th Jan 2020, 03:14
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Wireless telegraphy Act S36. Refers to messages - obviously private, not broadcasts. And “Authorised stations.” You can blab about what are broadcasts, not about private matters.
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Old 16th Jan 2020, 03:36
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Originally Posted by Sunfish View Post
Wireless telegraphy Act S36.
No longer in force.

Read posts from the top.
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